Heuristics, induction and evolution, oh my!

Posted on March 27, 2009


Gave a talk yesterday at my department in Lublin. The talk was on the connection between the boundedness of human reasoning, its evolutionary roots and the problem of induction.  It’s title, in English, was “Evolution, generative entrenchment and the bounds of rationality” (in Polish: Ewolucja, twórcze zakorzenienie i granice racjonalności). Basically, it was an extended version of the habits and heuristics talk I’ve given a couple of times, but also bringing in evolution this time. It’s actually the talk I’m thinking of sending to the Evolution, Co-operation and Rationality conference in Bristol. As such, it was pretty heavy going, making extensive use of evolutionary biology including work on evolutionary explanations of human behaviour, Herbert Simon’s heuristics, Bill Wimsatt’s generative entrenchment and Hume’s problem. Not surprisingly, many of my colleagues felt a bit overwhelmed, even though I did try to explain all of the basic concepts at length. As a result many of the questions were misdirected or simply asking for explanations. There was also quite a bit of questioning of the scope of evolutionary theory and of bounded rationality theory. Many of the listeners did not seem to like very much the idea of one term – artificial – being applied to all of life as well as  basically all human creations. The Bristol crowd should be much more open to the basic ideas but, also, a hell of a lot more critical of the details, many of which I am not totally happy with either. I’m putting up the slides for the talk but they are in Polish so will not be very informative for many readers. However, I will be submitting my abstract to Bristol in a few days and will put that up here also; in English, of course. At this time I am inclined to actually make fairly significant changes to the structure of the talk for Bristol. I think I see how I can seriously simplify it while clarifying the main ideas. So, the trial run has proved quite useful.